Japan-Themed Gala Breaks Coral Gables Community Foundation Records


Japan-Themed Gala Breaks Coral Gables Community Foundation Records

‘Under the Cherry Blossom Sky’ Gala Sets Record

CORAL GABLES, FLA. (Oct. 14 2023) –  Kudos for Karaoke, Kimonos and Kyoto!  “Under the Cherry Blossom Sky,” the Japan-inspired gala set a record for the Coral Gables Community. 

Held Friday, October 13th at the Loews Coral Gables Hotel, and co-chaired by Sissy DeMaria Koehne and Sadia Raja Alfonso, donations and sponsorships for “Under the Cherry Blossom Sky” topped last year’s “Road to Rio” gala, raising more than $500k for the Coral Gables based philanthropic nonprofit led by President & CEO Mary Snow, that inspires impactful philanthropy through charitable funds. This year, the Community Foundation awarded more than $400k in scholarships to graduating high school students, and more than $286k in grants to local non-profit organizations. With the success of this gala, the Board is likely to increase grants and awards again in 2024. 

The arrival was fit for an emperor. Patrons were greeted by beautiful women dressed in brilliantly colored kimonos and geisha masks, while a dozen drummers  gave a rousing welcome on thundering Japanese drums to the more than 400 guests as they entered the ballroom draped with cherry blossoms.

While there was many surprise and delight moments throughout, including a martial artist performing Japanese iaido (sword drawing) and uproarious karaoke, the evening’s highlight was bar none, witnessing  the pillars of the community being recognized on stage for their philanthropic achievements in the City Beautiful. 

The evening’s honorees included:

  • Tracy Wilson Mourning was recognized with the Community Award presented by the Anthony R. Abraham Foundation.
  •  Lisa and Victor Mendelson received the Education Award presented by St. Thomas University; 
  • Judy and Jon Zeder accepted the Sports & Wellness Award presented by Doctors Hospital & Baptist Health Orthopedic Care;
  • Adrienne Arsht was honored with the Arts & Culture Award presented by Trish and Dan Bell; 
  • Conchi & Tony Argiz received the Philanthropy Award, presented by Miami Dade College Foundation;
  • Silvia Tcherassi was presented with the Gables Beautiful Award presented by Ray Corral and Alina Meledina;
  • UM Lowe Art Museum received the Landmark Award presented by MG Developer and The Village at Coral Gables. 

Patrons dined on a three-course meal of Bluefin Tuna Tataki, Imperial Short Rib, and  Matcha Mango cake, and then joined a live auction, which featured an Azamara Cruise to anywhere in the world, a Moke electric vehicle and a 5-day stay at a spectacular estate on Lake Martin.

Following the live auction, guests headed to the dance floor with the very bravest stepping up to the microphone to sing along during the hysterical karaoke after-party.

“For the last nine years, we’ve  traveled to Athens, London, Madrid, Shanghai, Rio, and Venice and all were magical but the icing on the cake was the Under the Cherry Blossom Sky, said Sissy DeMaria-Koehne, the creative mastermind behind the gala since 2015 and who teamed up with fellow board member Dr. Sadia Raja Alfonso to present an unprecedented evening of exhilarating performances and philanthropy.  

“This was a pivotal year for the Community Foundation. We awarded more scholarships and more grants than ever in our history. The gala is our most important fundraiser and helps makes this all possible,” said Mary Snow, CEO, of the Coral Gables Community Foundation. “Philanthropy is the bedrock of our Community Foundation and the support of our sponsors and donors provides us with the means to make a positive impact on the community,” she added.  

“We take great pride in serving on the Board and as gala co chairs, creating memorable events to engage the community and inspire philanthropy. We kicked off our gala with our traditional luncheon and fashion show at Neiman Marcus Coral Gables, and then a benefactor pre ball party at the home of Consul General Kazuhiro Nakai of Japan. In all, the evening’s success comes down to a shared love of our community and encouraging our friends and associates to get involved with us,” said Dr. Sadia Raja Alfonso. 

This year’s events wouldn’t have reached Mount Fuji proportions if it weren’t for the record-setting, generous sponsors of “Under the Cherry Blossom Sky.” 

  • Philanthropic Chairs: Trish & Dan Bell. 
  • Legacy Sponsors:  Doctors Hospital and Baptist Health Orthopedic Care, Ray Corral and Alina Meledina with Mosaicist; MG Developer and The Village at Coral Gables; Norma Jean Abraham and The Abraham Family Foundation.
  • Merrick Table Sponsors: Bacardi; Knight Foundation; Miami Dade College Foundation; Mercedes Benz of Coral Gables; Northern Trust; Ashley Cusack Team; The Mendelson Family; Bastian Familiy Foundation; UHealth Miller School of Medicine; and the Mneimneh Family Foundation.
  • Patron Sponsors: Hindman Auctions & Appraisals; BDO; Alan Schriesheim & Kay Torshen; Bermont Gold Wealth Advisory of Raymond James; Coral Gables Trust and Jackson Health Urgent Care.
  • Media Partners: Coral Gables Magazine, WLRN, Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald and Miami’s Community Newspapers
  • Gala Partners: The Consulate-General of Japan in Miami and Cultivate PR.

For more information please contact the Community Foundation at 305.446.9670.

The next big events for Coral Gables Community Foundation, are the annual Wine Auction, “Vinos at The Plaza,” on Thursday November 9th, and “Tour of Kitchens,” taking place on Saturday, February 10, 2024. Tickets and sponsorships are at www.Gablesfoundation.org.


The Coral Gables Community Foundation, founded by community leaders in 1991, inspires impactful philanthropy through charitable funds and programs using local knowledge, expertise and trusted relationships.  The Foundation, through its discretionary, donor-advised and scholarships funds, provides grants to local nonprofits, scholarships to deserving students and has supported issues within the Foundation’s focus areas: Education, Arts & Culture, Historic Preservation & the Environment, and Social & Health Services.  Learn more at www.GablesFoundation.org. 


Link:  Gala Photo Highlights  https://photos.app.goo.gl/uhjSsvjB7McrhCss8 

Your Community. Your Philanthropy. Your Foundation.

Our goal is to help our donors make their philanthropy more effective, more creative, and more local. Over the years, donors have trusted us with their financial and estate plans—creating their legacy, and significantly impacting their community each year.